Consumer Groups Seek Energy Price Probe

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Energy Daily

Four national consumer groups and consumer advocate Ralph Nader Monday asked President Bush to investigate the spiraling costs of energy, which the groups said have shaken consumer confidence, inflated prices and shifted capital from the United States to oil-exporting dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

In a letter dated Monday, the groups asked for a meeting with Bush “to discuss the steps that must be taken to secure America’s economic and energy security and to ask that you initiate an investigation into the role U.S. oil company price gouging has had in contributing to high gasoline prices.”

The groups also asked Bush to order a $2 per gallon cap on retail gasoline prices “in the event of a war” with Iraq and “inform us of your planned use of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.”

The letter noted that within two months after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the price of oil plummeted by nearly 40 percent. But since Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address, in which Bush named Iraq as an “axis of evil” country, oil prices have doubled to nearly $40 per barrel-the highest level since the Gulf War.

The groups also said the recent wave of oil company mergers over the past few years has led to five companies controlling more than 40 percent of all domestic production, half of the domestic oil refineries and more than two-thirds of all gas stations, “choking competition and allowing them to inflate gas prices on top of the global crude oil price.”

The groups said oil companies today have even more control over domestic markets than in 2001, when the Federal Trade Commission found that some companies intentionally withheld gasoline from the market to increase prices.

“In addition, these large oil companies continue to take advantage of the regulated energy trading sector that allowed Enron [Corp.] to gouge West Coast electricity consumers,” the letter said. “The same lack of transparency that Enron exploited is being exploited by ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco and other oil companies with large positions in the unregulated over-the-counter energy derivatives market.”

The letter was signed by Nader and Theresa Amato, executive director of Citizen Works; Jaime Court, executive director of The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights; Linda Golodner, president and chief executive officer of National Consumer League; and Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen.

Consumer Watchdog
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